By George Fullerton
New Brunswick logger Carter Dixon began his career in the woods, with his brother Pat, when he was 12-years-old, cutting and selling hardwood. This initial enterprise was on the family farm in Shemogue, in the southeast corner of New Brunswick. They had lots of family support, to get the wood cut and hauled out.
Now in his thirties, Dixon is still in the woods, and still with his brother, but harvesting wood at a different scale—working with three Tigercats and two Rottne forwarders.
After graduating high school in 2008, Dixon went to work for Terry Wood, a major stump-to-dump contractor based in southeast New Brunswick, who also took on contracts in Nova Scotia. Initially, Dixon was driving a log truck, and later on, operating forwarders and harvesters.
In 2014, Dixon purchased a used log truck and hauled wood for J. D. Irving, as well as harvest contractors, including Albeo Gould. After about a year, Dixon bought a new Kenworth tractor from Bayview Trucks in Moncton and a new BWS trailer from NorthEast Truck & Trailer in Truro, Nova Scotia. Dixon hired a driver for the new truck and also double-shifted with the driver for a period.
While hauling wood, Albeo Gould extended an invitation to Dixon: if Dixon bought a harvester, Gould could guarantee him lots of work.
Gould contracts stumpage and buys woodland for his harvesting business. He owns nine trucks, and hires additional trucks, depending on operations.
At one point, Gould operated a number of bunchers, harvesters and forwarders, but in the past few years has divested all harvesting equipment save for one forwarder. He now relies primarily on harvest and forwarder contractors to harvest and forward to roadside. Gould’s 2018 production is targeted to come in at around 50,000 tonnes.
Dixon had hauled wood for Gould on different occasions over several years, and knew his operation and reputation well; Dixon realized the offer was a good opportunity.
Dixon’s second major encouragement to buy a harvester was through talking with his brother, Pat. Pat had been working in the west, and he indicated that he wanted to return home to New Brunswick. Pat agreed that he would become a harvester operator and mechanic, if Carter made a deal on a machine.
“Pat is an excellent harvester operator and he is a great mechanic. He can fix or build just about anything related to equipment,” explained Dixon.
In 2015, Dixon began looking for a harvester. It was through contact with Wajax (Moncton) salesman Danny St. Jean that a well-used Tigercat harvester was located for sale, in Quebec.
“I was convinced that I would buy a Tigercat,” said Dixon. “I had operated Tigercats with Log Max heads and Rottne forwarders for Terry Wood, so I was familiar with them. I knew what they were capable of and what it would take to keep them operating.
“I figured my best strategy for success would be to stick with what I know. My experience was with Tigercat and Log Max so that is what I set my sights on.”
The search turned up a used Tigercat 845 owned by a Quebec contractor.
“We had to go into northern Maine to see the machine,” he says. “The Quebec contractor did not speak English, and I had no French, so we communicated through Danny, and made a deal on a 2000 model year 845B Tigercat, with 69,000 hours on it.”
Dixon said that while the machine had a lot of hours on it, he could see it was well maintained, and had lots of life left in it. “I was happy with the deal.
“I have great confidence with Tigercat. They are reliable and consistent. They might burn more fuel than other machines, but they cut a lot of wood. I like tracks—they are always ready to go, and they wear well in our terrain. I am really happy with Tigercat.”
With brother Pat in the Tigercat, Dixon then made a deal with Rottne Canada in Moncton, on a 1999 15 tonne forwarder, to put wood to roadside.
The only cautionary note that Dixon had about the harvester deal was the Log Max head.
The old Log Max head was simply worn out. “My plan was to put a new Log Max head on the machine once I had some production out of the old one.”
About a year after the initial purchase of the harvester, Dixon made a deal with Log Max salesman Rob Moran on a new Log Max 7000.
Dixon explained that the new head has met his expectations, with higher and more consistent production. “We are producing more wood and there is a lot less downtime,” he says. “With the new Log Max 7000 head on the Tigercat, I know we are capable of cutting any size and type of tree growing in New Brunswick.”
The 7000 head was installed with the new Log Mate 510 computer. “The 510 is a far superior system compared to the old 392 model it replaced,” says Dixon. “Everything works better, operators are more comfortable with it and it provides far better performance, overall.”
The new head and computer was installed at the Log Max shop in Moncton. The changeover took just three days.
“Once the machine was back in the woods, Log Max’s Danny Cormier came out to the operation and trained us on the new computer,” explained Dixon.
With his operation benefitting from higher production with the new Log Max head, early in 2018 Dixon was encouraged to make a deal on a second harvester, a used Tigercat 845C, also equipped with a Log Max 7000 head, operating with a 402 computer system.
Dixon initially thought that his one Rottne would be able to forward production from two harvesters, but when wood was piling up on trails, he made a deal on another used Rottne.
Dixon was operating the newly acquired Tigercat harvester himself when he recruited 19-year-old Jeremy Hicks to train to operate the 845C machine. Realizing that Hicks faced a very steep learning curve as an operator with absolutely no harvester experience, Dixon came up with a stepped training solution for Hicks, while scanning Kijiji. The solution came in the form of a well used Tigercat feller buncher. The old buncher would become a training module for Hicks.
“The buncher provided Jeremy with familiarization on the Tigercat machine, how it traveled, the joysticks and maintenance. Felling and bunching trees provided significantly less challenge than trying to figure out the harvester head,” said Dixon.
“Jeremy would spend the first half of the day in the buncher working on a strip, while I harvested on an adjoining strip. For the second half of his shift, Jeremy would get in the harvester that I had been operating, and process on the buncher piles he had made in the morning.
“The training allowed him to gain the basic operating skills in the Tigercat, and processing from the piles gave him skills operating the harvester head, without the challenge of felling trees. Once he was doing well with the processing, he began to harvest standing trees and only had to add that one skill to all the skills he built bunching and processing.”
With the buncher having served its purpose to build Hick’s operating skills, it was then parked on the work site, with the expectation that it would be sold. That was the basic plan, until Dixon’s operation hit a significant patch of trashy wood.
“The wood was poor and our production went down significantly,” said Dixon. The solution to the situation was staring him in the face—and he jumped in the buncher and began bunching the low grade stand, with the two harvesters following and processing the wood.
“That old buncher sure helped us out,” he says. “If we had stuck with harvesting the poor wood, we would have struggled to make half the production we made by processing the bunched trees.’’
Dixon confessed that perhaps the old buncher might stick around and earn its keep.
Dixon’s wife, Victoria, handles the day to day bookkeeping for the business, along with her job with an optometrist’s office in Amherst, Nova Scotia, which is just a 10 -minute drive from their home in Pointe-de-Bute, New Brunswick.
The Dixon operation takes a month shutdown in the spring and all the harvesting and forwarding equipment is floated by Albeo Gould, to his shop in Shemogue.
“We have a good idea what we need to work on for each machine and the operators all help out,” says Dixon. “I consider it very important to take that time to go over the machines and fix or overhaul things, so that when we go back to the woods, we are ready to make our production numbers.”
In the woods, each machine carries replacements for major hoses. They also have one complete hose kit for their Log Max 7000 heads, divided between the two harvesters. Pat has a hose building kit in the shop at his home.
Good equipment and maintenance is important, but a solid crew is key for a successful operation, says Dixon. “You need good operators, and I think we have the best. We operate a single twelve-hour shift. I’ve double shifted with my trucks, and I never liked it at all. I promised myself that if I ever had a harvest operation, I would run it as a single shift.
“I love what I am doing,” Dixon adds. “I love working in the woods, I like working with equipment and I have a great crew to work with and a great operation to work for. Albeo Gould has lots of wood to cut, he builds great roads and the wood moves to market consistently, so we get paid consistently. Together, this all makes going to work a lot of fun and rewarding.”
On the Cover:
Saskatchewan’s Freedom Logging harvests about 283,000 cubic metres annually, primarily for the Tolko OSB plant near Meadow Lake, and the logging outfit has a long association with John Deere equipment, including Deere skidders, as the backbone of their logging fleet. Read all about the operation beginning on page 44 of this issue. (Cover photo by Tony Kryzanowski)
Fighting wildfires—at the community level
Local governments in B.C. are doing what they can to reduce the devastating effects wildfires can have on forests—and the communities within those forests.
Solid safety record on steep slopes
B.C. coastal logging operation CoastFibre has invested big time in steep slope logging equipment—and that investment has paid off in a solid safety record.
BC Saw Filers’ Convention coming up
Logging and Sawmilling Journal previews the upcoming BC Saw Filers’ Convention, to be held in Kamloops, B.C. April 25 to 27, which promises to be a great exhibition of all the latest in technology, products and services in saw filing.
Top Lumber Producers – Who’s on Top?
Logging and Sawmilling Journal’s exclusive annual listing of Canada’s Top Lumber Producers, produced in co-operation with industry consultants, FEA Group.
Fitting all the pieces together ...
Working with a solid crew—and employing Tigercat, Rottne and Log Max equipment—New Brunswick logger Carter Dixon is finding he has all the pieces for a successful logging operation.
Dealing with substance abuse…in the sawmill
Ontario sawmill reps have identified substance abuse as the top health and safety risk in the workplace—and now have some action suggestions on how to deal with it.
Building the base…
Saskatchewan’s Freedom Logging started operations in the jaws of the economic downturn, and has gradually built its volume—and its equipment base—to the point that it now has more than triple the cut that it started with, in 2008.
Ontario logger Dave Quehl has made the move into cut-to-length harvesting, and his equipment line-up has evolved—with a Caterpillar 521B tracked harvester with a Quadco 5660 head and John Deere 1510E forwarder now fitting the bill.
Catching a great wood products market
New Brunswick’s GL Wood Products has established a very unique market niche: producing lumber components for fish boxes for shipping smoked and salted fish to overseas markets.
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre and FPInnovations.